Area once considered safe; West Valley locals express concern about recent murders
WEST VALLEY, Wash. -- James Hanks tells Action News he heard bullets fly that summer day in July, when he was out taking pictures near West Valley Middle School.
"Just crossed the bridge, and I heard gunshots when I crossed over," said Hanks.
Little did he know, 19-year-old Eduardo Rodriguez-Castaneda had just been gunned down.
Hanks says he’s lived in West Valley for the past 10 years, and in recent years, he’s noticed an increase in crime that he never would’ve thought would make it’s way to the area; crime that makes him think he should've stayed in Toppenish.
"You didn’t have no thoughts about going out at night, now walking to the store, I like walking, but just going to the store at night, I think double about it," said Hanks.
Since July, West Valley has seen two murders, prompting Yakima City Council to bring the community together for a public safety forum.
In a statement made by Councilwoman Holly Cousens, she says “I think it’s important we give District 7 a voice in improving public safety in the West Valley area of town and hope that we can come to some solutions. The input we receive from the community will help the city address public safety concerns.”
In 2017, the city says there was a total of 13 homicides in the city of Yakima, two of which occurred in West Valley.
And so far, in 2018, there have been 16 homicides in the city, again, two of which happened in West Valley.
The most recent one happened the day after Thanksgiving, at the West Valley Community Park.
Stan Belsher lives in the neighborhood next to it, and he says he didn’t hear a single gunshot that day.
"I was surprised, and the funny thing is about 5 o'clock in the afternoon, and we were here and we didn’t hear any noise. We didn’t hear the police or anything, which we thought we would. We aren’t quite deaf, yet," said Belsher.
Despite the crime, Belsher says he isn’t afraid, and he won’t let it stop him from going about his daily business.
"I don’t like to see crime going on, and I don’t like it close to me, but we’re not really affected other than being in close proximity, so I’m not afraid for myself, I’m just concerned of the crime going on," said Belsher.